A 34-year-old Lakeville man with a history of mental illness was charged with a felony on Tuesday after he allegedly vandalized a Lakeville church altar during a mass over the weekend.

An off-duty police officer from South Dakota arrested Steven Richard Fay moments after he poured what was believed to have been urine on the altar at All Saints Catholic Church on Saturday, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in Dakota County District Court.

County Attorney James Backstrom said that because the man targeted a religious institution in "a hate-based crime," the charge of second-degree criminal damage to property became a felony rather than a gross misdemeanor. If convicted, Fay could get a year and a day in jail and a fine of $900 to $3,000.

"It's very sad and disturbing to see a religious institution targeted in this way," Backstrom said.

Fay was not a member of the parish, and it's unclear why he targeted this church, Backstrom said.

The complaint, based on witness statements from the officer and others, says that Fay entered the church on Holyoke Avenue during the 5 p.m. mass, walked to the altar and turned to face parishioners.

He dumped a yellow liquid on the altar linen and book of gospels, then turned to leave.

The officer confronted Fay, identifying himself as a police officer. Fay allegedly took a swing at the officer, who grabbed him by his jacket. Fay slipped out of his jacket and got away, only to be nabbed by parishioners, who restrained him until police arrived, the complaint says.

"I hate Christians!" Fay was shouting, according to the complaint.

The book of gospels was valued at $350 and the altar linen cloth at $200.

Fay has had commitments for mental illness in 1999, 2004 and 2006 in Dakota County, with hospitalization at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, court records show. A psychological examination was ordered Tuesday by the court, Backstrom said.

Fay was being held in the Dakota County Jail in lieu of $40,000 bail. If he posts bail, he's under court order to stay away from the church.

Joy Powell • 952-882-9017